Red Kite Information & FAQ's

5. Social Behaviour

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The red kite is a gregarious bird, and can be seen in large groups in the Chilterns. This happens quite often when food is present, often because of artificial feeding During the winter months they also gather at roosts located in various places throughout the Chilterns.

The roost may consist of large numbers of kites - sometimes over 100 can be seen in a favoured woodland roost. Spectacular aerial displays often take place at these sites.

Kites are often seen 'chasing' each other, and flying in unison. This often takes place between pairs bonding, although sometimes, there seems to be no particular reason for this, except for 'play' which may improve flying skills. Males can also be seen chasing off rivals, during the breeding season.

These images show examples of social behaviour. Quite often these interactions take place when one bird is trying to steal food from the other. If the kite is carrying food in its talons, another will attack often forcing the original bird to drop the piece of food.

Flying with a large twig

Kites can also be seen occasionally carrying twigs, sometimes rather large twigs!

Although they may be taking the twigs to build a nest, they also appear to 'play' with the twig, often dropping it, then swooping down to retrieve it. This particular bird (on the right),was passing the twig from its bill to talons several times.

This kite was concentrating on the twig whilst perching in the tree. This is quite a common sight in and around woodlands. The twig eventually dropped to the ground with the bird losing interest and flying away.

Like all birds of prey, kites are often seen being mobbed by members of the corvid family such as crows, jackdaws, magpies, etc. There are various reasons for this – the kite may be seen as a threat to the young crows, etc., - perhaps mobbing is educational, teaching the younger birds that the kite is seen as a threat – or they could be attempting to steal food from the Kite. The kite will usually ignore the mobbing for a short while, and move away from the area. Their patience does wear thin however, and they will often be seen turning and showing their talons to the smaller birds, which is usually sufficient warning for the mobbing to cease.

MOVEMENTS. Unlike the Scandinavian Red Kite, the Kites in the United Kingdom are not migratory. The young birds will often go on a 'walkabout', in their first year once and are sighted up and down various parts of the country. However, they normally return to their natal area to breed, although this isn't always the case - Chilterns Kites are regularly seen in other parts of the country, and have been known to breed outside the Chilterns.